Today in 1941, U.S. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt took note of the Greek people’s World War II heroism.
During a meeting with the American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (AHEPA), President Roosevelt praised Greece for its courageous resistance in the face of invasion by the Nazi Germans.
“The heroic struggle of the Greek people to defend their liberties and their homes against the aggression of Germany after they had so signally defeated the Italian attempt at invasion has stirred the hearts and aroused the sympathy of the whole American people,” Roosevelt said.
Roosevelt’s statement came just months after the Italian invasion of October 28, 1940, when Benito Mussolini’s fascist forces attempted to invade Greece through Albania.
Early that morning, Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas had faced a grim ultimatum from the Italian dictator — surrender, or face war. Metaxas defiant response — “no” — subsequently marked one of the most defining moments in WWII history.
After one week of fighting, Greek forces pushed the invading Italian army back into Albania. That defeat prompted German dictator Adolf Hitler to launch the Nazi invasion of Greece — which would become a costly affair due to fierce Greek resistance.
These actions stirred Roosevelt — and the entire American nation.
At that time, a massive U.S.-based war relief fund for Greece had already been well underway. Immediately after the Italian invasion, Greek Americans had organized the Greek War Relief Association (GWRA) and used AHEPA’s existing network to facilitate fundraising efforts.
Within six months, the GWRA collected $4 million — approximately $72 million in 2018 dollars.
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